Jack pushed the boat as hard as it would run, zig zagging his course toward the point. He hoped to round it and get out of firing range in the shallows of Frenchmen's Creek. The faster power boats were well ahead, except for the sportfisherman. They must have run out of fuel, Jack deduced, because they slowed considerably then turned and put the boat on the beach. He saw the crew jump overboard and wade to shore. Not a moment too soon either, for when the boat became stationary it also became an easy target and was destroyed by another incoming shell.
Several more rounds exploded around First Watch, many of them only a hundred feet from where she would have been had Jack not changed course dramatically. As he and Linda approached South Bluff, the shells were falling short by a hundred yards or so. The ship was unable to pursue them through the shallows of the bank, and what remained of the little fleet was now out of range.
They rounded the point, then threaded their way through the small islands into Frenchmen's Creek. Island Time had already dropped anchor, and Jack pulled right up to Willie's stern. Linda went forward and tossed a line to Seth, who was waiting on the aft deck as they approached. Jack retrieved a bottle of rum from the locker under the cockpit seat, then went to the bow to speak to Seth and Willie.
“Willie, what the fu...”
Willie cut Jack off. “I don't know. Not exactly.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Jack asked, incredulously.
“I heard something on the side band last night. Bits and pieces. It didn't make a lot of sense then, but it does now.”
“What was it?” Linda asked.
“Well.... I heard some chatter. Mostly in Spanish, but I kept hearing names of American Navy ships. From what I could gather, Castro must have decided he was better off making nice with us... I mean America... In order to put down the riots which had erupted there when things went to hell. Like we saw with the gun boat back in the Florida Straights, lots of Cubans took advantage of the shit hitting the fan. Castro's military started to turn on him, and many of his officers went rogue. Even though they had ties with China, geography made him re-evaluate his priorities. That and necessity. American warships and Marines still loyal to those rat bastards in D.C. were dispatched to Cuba to squash the rebellion Why not? They got oil... I suppose our government has been tracking our movements. As Jonathan said, we've been all over shortwave radio, which is an embarrassment to D.C. I guess since we... America had some ships in the area, we were targets of opportunity. At least that's my take on it. My Spanish is a bit rusty.”
Jack's blood ran cold. He couldn't believe that they would go so far... What did it matter to them if a handful of “nobodies” escaped? He couldn't even imagine the propaganda that must be circulating about him and his fellow escapees, and it made him sick to his stomach even thinking about it.
“So what now Willie?” asked Jack.
“Honestly Jack....” Willie took a long pause, staring down at the water. “I think we need to get the hell out of this hemisphere.”
The weight of that statement hit Jack like a ton of bricks. There was no way the whole group could do that, not on the few sailboats they had. There was no way they'd be able to procure enough fuel for the power boats. He twisted the cap on his bottle of rum and took a long pull, cursing the internal combustion engine in his mind...